PETALING JAYA: A cybersecurity centre in Malaysia will boost foreign direct investments (FDIs) but it can also attract cyber criminals, according to IT industry experts.
They said such a centre could enhance Malaysia’s cybersecurity credentials, which foreign investors will be attracted to.
On the other hand, they said, hackers could also be drawn to Malaysia to test the local cybersecurity capabilities.
These experts were commenting on a recent statement by Anwar Ibrahim that Canada’s BlackBerry Cybersecurity could invest in a cybersecurity centre in Malaysia.
The prime minister said recently that BlackBerry Cybersecurity chief executive John Gianmatteo had expressed his company’s interest in investing in Malaysia when he visited the country last month.
Upside and downside
Vicks Kanagasingam, CEO of leadership development and consulting solutions company Leaderonomics Digital, said BlackBerry’s interest has proven that Malaysia has the infrastructure and ecosystem that investors in the technology sector seek.
He said the move is timely given the ongoing deployment of 5G and growth in the demand for fintech (financial technology) services.
He said BlackBerry’s entry into the cybersecurity space in Malaysia could also attract foreign direct investments (FDIs) into the country, leading to job creation.
“With an accompanying academy and training programmes, Malaysia can even be a hub for cybersecurity talents,” he said.
“This will improve the nation’s resilience against cyberattacks,” he added.
However, Vicks warned that the move could also attract cybercriminals keen to put BlackBerry’s cybersecurity capabilities to the test.
“It can make Malaysia the target of hackers keen to demonstrate to their peers their ability to breach the country’s IT systems,” he said.
Murugason Thangaratnam, CEO of cybersecurity firm Novem CS, also sees the entry of BlackBerry into the local cybersecurity space as a positive move.
“BlackBerry has always been synonymous with mobile security as we have seen in its messaging system and smartphones that were used by many organisations with strict security requirements,” he told FMT Business.
“This security pedigree carries on to this day through a diverse portfolio of cybersecurity, critical events management, endpoint management and embedded systems.”
He expects BlackBerry’s entry into Malaysia to open opportunities for transfer of technology.
“BlackBerry also has an IoT (internet of things) division whose QNX platform provides a connected vehicle experience used in over 215 million vehicles worldwide,” he said.
Of the 25 largest electric vehicle makers in the world, 24 use the QNX platform.
The way forward
The National Tech Association of Malaysia (Pikom) said the cybersecurity centre, if it materialises, will also have a training and education centre.
“This will definitely help to increase the cybersecurity talent in Malaysia and the region.
“Malaysian companies and learning institutions can benefit from the collaboration too,” it said.
Vicks said the government should leverage on investments such as that from BlackBerry to enhance its own cybersecurity system.
He said private companies and government agencies must work together to ensure that the nation is cybersecurity resilient.
Murugason said the gap and mismatch in talent and skills in the sector has to be addressed.
He also proposed that the Personal Data Protection Act and Cyber Security Act be enforced promptly to create a framework of accountability.
Pikom said the government should invest in research and development as well as education and training.
“There should also be a more supportive environment for cybersecurity start-ups,” it said. “Tax breaks and other incentives should be considered.”
A trail of successes and setbacks
BlackBerry has seen its ups and downs through its more than two decades in business.
From 1999 to 2007, positive reception to its cutting edge technology helped the company, then known as Research In Motion, to expand rapidly.
However, the advent of the touchscreen iPhone in 2007 triggered a dramatic shift away from BlackBerry’s mobile devices.
In just two years, it lost more than half of its market value.
However, it made the transition into a security software and services provider in 2016.
Three years later, it acquired Cylance, a privately held artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity company to bolster its security chops and intelligently connect, protect, and help build secure endpoints.